Four months ago, I started thinking about my agency’s annual statistics, wondering how many manuscripts I typically need to read in order to find a new client. Now, the results for 2011 are in. As it turns out, I read 14 full manuscripts last year and, from that selection, offered to represent one new client.
The other relevant statistic is the number of contacts with writers that led me to ask for the opportunity to read those 14 full manuscripts. All told, there were 300 contacts—in the form of queries submitted to my agency, pitches at writers’ conferences that inspired me to ask for queries or manuscripts, my inquiries sent to writers whose work I admired, and referrals from authors and publishers.
Let me break it down to make it easier to visualize:
- 300 writers asked me, or were asked if they’d like me, to consider their work
- 14 (4.66%) of those writers were invited to send me their full manuscripts
- 1 (0.33%) then became my client
As it turns out, the numbers change from year to year, because I don’t always solicit queries continuously from January through December, yet the percentages remain roughly the same. In 2009, the bottom line was 0.5%. In 2010, it was 0.36%. In 2011, it was 0.33%. There’s some logic apparent.
There might also be a bit of hidden logic, though I hope I don’t live to regret the suggestion. It appears that after I’ve been working with a client for a year or two, it becomes more profitable to invest my time in that client’s career (licensing subsidiary rights, coaching on marketing and self-promotion, etc.) than it would be for me to spend the same amount of time searching for a new client to add to my agency’s roster. However, there’s a catch. This particular cost-benefit analysis holds true only if the existing clients happen to be as talented and productive as mine are!
Which brings the logic back around, full circle, to the reason my clients are, shall we say, the less than one percent.
(OK, I just couldn’t resist.)